Semmler: “I’m just itching to get back on the mic and cast some CS:GO”

The conclusion of the OWL sees Semmler return to CS:GO.

Photo via BLAST Pro Series

Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat was highly regarded as one of the best casters in CS:GO. But despite his move to the Overwatch League in 2017, Semmler has found more time to return to his former esport. 

Semmler will be casting alongside Henry “HenryG” Greer at BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen next month from Nov. 1 to 2. 

The commentator talked with Dot Esports about his transition back into the CS:GO scene, as well as balancing time between his personal life and his position in the Overwatch League. 

How were you first approached to join the Overwatch League? 

Semmler: Everything kind of happened in a whirl. The split with Anders Blume happened while I was still in Stockholm and I traveled to Los Angeles to visit my family. While I was there, Matthew “Mr X” Morello hit me up because we were buddies from back in the day. He wanted to grab a drink and we were chatting it up. He was just, “you know this Overwatch League,” it kind of went from there. “Would you be interested in taking part? Is this be something you would be down for?” Obviously, at that point, I said yes. It all kind of went from there. 

Did you have a preconception that you wanted to take a pause from CS:GO? Let’s say you didn’t join the Overwatch League, would you have continued with CS:GO

Yeah, I would have continued with CS:GO. I don’t know. It’s kind of providential how it all played out because I would have continued with CS:GO but I wouldn’t have been very happy because in order to have made it work for me, to have a space in CS:GO would mean destabilizing the status quo. Essentially, I would have had to compete against Anders and Jason “moses” O’Toole, which is something I didn’t want to do. At that point in time, I just wasn’t in the frame of mind to go to war, to go and be competitive. Whereas, Anders and I had cast Overwatch in the past at ELEAGUE in 2016 and I played a lot of it. When it happened, I was like, I enjoy Overwatch, I liked it in the past, it was a lot of fun to cast. And I got a deal with the one guy I really wanted to work with going into it: Robert “hexagrams” Kirkbride. So I was sitting there like thinking this is ideal, this works out perfectly because it’s a new challenge and it will offer me plenty of opportunities to learn. 

It’ll go from the free-market, freewheeling and dealing system that we have in CS:GO to learning how to function in a corporate environment and to work for one company all year long. That was when it came to light. As soon as Matt mentioned it, it all came together like “yeah, this is exactly what I need right now, I need a new challenge,” rather than destabilizing the CS:GO market and it just wouldn’t have been fun. The circumstances wouldn’t have been fun for me to try and figure things out in CS:GO. Whereas, now, it’s much more fun for me to come back into CS:GO because everyone is excited for me to come back. I’m really excited because I’ve been watching on the sidelines so I’m just itching to get back on the mic and cast some CS:GO. If I can have my cake and eat it where I cast Overwatch 50 percent and CS:GO another 50 percent, that will be the dream down the road. 

So, in the future, are you saying that you want to try and mix casting between Overwatch and CS:GO

Yeah, that’s really what I would love to do. I always wanted to do it since the beginning as well but because the Overwatch League schedule is so demanding, during the season, you really don’t have time to go out and do other events. You’ll get those breaks, the 10 days between stages, but that isn’t enough time. I’m coming home to Stockholm, I’m visiting my wife, and catching up with friends. There just isn’t enough time to do CS:GO events and be on the road even more. When I’m in Los Angeles, I’m living on the road. I am on the road for eight months, essentially. And then I come back home to Stockholm. When I had those windows where I could do a CS:GO event that week but at the same time, I thought no, I couldn’t take the time off and I really needed that time with family and friends and to just regenerate for the Overwatch League schedule. So I have always had the option, which is why I’m coming back into CS:GO because I’ve always had the option at the end of the season. Once it ends, then I’m free to do what I want because there is no longer any conflict in terms of time. Going forward into next year with all of the homestands with the circuit format, there will be more time. I’m seeing if it’s possible to have that balance between the two. 

I can be much more present in the CS:GO scene then I have been over the past two years, but then still maintain my presence in the Overwatch scene because this is where we are starting to get to the fun part. We’ve made it through the two years in the previous projects but now we are getting into the fun stuff. Every homestand has been fantastic. When you’re at events in Overwatch, it’s really sick. The fans are sick, super friendly, and super hype. You get to spend more time with the production and with the teams. It feels much more like a CS:GO event because it’s that on the road as a team type of feel. I’m excited to feel what next year holds because it will bring everybody much closer to the production and team sides. I feel like we will have a better mood in 2020. What I mean by that, we are all going to get closer. That’s what we had in the CS:GO scene because I knew all my producers on a first-name basis. I know that in Overwatch, but I knew my producers really well in CS:GO. I’m kind of excited to have that relationship growing in Overwatch. I think it’s going to be really fun and I believe it will push the broadcast. 

Now that you have experience casting in two esports, how is the talent treated differently between Overwatch and CS:GO

There is a significant difference. It’s the fact that you are working for one direct employer and you are not competing against one another. What I mean by that, when you’re working with Blizzard, you’re all on the same page and you’re all on a team and you aren’t competing with each other because you’re contracted for a year, so you’re not thinking “oh this event or the next event, will they take my spot?” That has always been the point of contention in the CS:GO scene and the CS:GO commentators. 

That is what I was trying to do with Room on Fire. I was trying to create what we got in Overwatch last year. We are all a unit, working together. There is less tension between us because we are on the same team. Nobody is competing against each other apart from a popularity contest with Reddit, but who cares about that? In terms of contract, it didn’t matter. I think that went a long way toward making everyone super stoked in the Overwatch talent pool. You didn’t have to worry about the nibbling in the back of your head, “oh we are competing against each other.” No, you knew what your work was the entire year. 

That doesn’t mean that in the CS:GO scene we aren’t tight. It’s complicated. Yes, you’re friends with everyone, but at the same time, you’re still competing for the next events. So you don’t want to stop doing events because that can open a door. That can cause lost opportunities. Moses talked about this very thing because if you stop, that opens the door. This wasn’t present in the OWL talent. It’s a free-market system. You have less security in CS:GO. You aren’t planning six months ahead. 

Do you believe that CS:GO is moving in a more exclusive direction with its tournaments, considering that you’ve been involved with franchising itself? 

I don’t think it will. I think I know Valve’s mind on this because I’ve spoken with Valve about this in the past. Valve rarely want to run the same experiment twice. To me, it’s almost as if Valve is running an experiment with CS:GO that’s different from the rest of the industry. You’ve got Overwatch, CoD, and League all franchising, monopolies in a sense that are just running a league that dominates the year. I’m really happy to see that Valve has decided, “no, we are going in the opposite direction with CS:GO, we are going to keep the free-market approach.” I’m happy about that. I’m actually glad we have different models. If everyone went the same way and you had to compare one another, it’s not the same thing. With CS:GO, you’re still going to have the ESL broadcast that can be compared to StarSeries, FACEIT, and DreamHack, etc. 

I have an idea to write an article about how broadcasting has changed in CS:GO. Like DreamHack Winter 2013, this is what we are casting with and then come to today. Just to show how drastically different things have changed. The reason this happened is you have different tournaments organizers who think different things but they notice what their competitor is doing. There is competition in the CS:GO scene in terms of the production. I like that a lot. It allows for improvements to happen. If there is no competition, what’s really forcing improvements in the broadcast? We will be able to see the two, now that you’re going to have different franchising models and then compare them to CS:GO. I’m very happy with Valve that they put their foot down and said “No, we want to keep a free-market approach in CS:GO.”

For those unaware, do you mind explaining your role at BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen? 

I’ll be commentating with Henry “HenryG” Greer. That’ll be a fun thing. It will be the full two days of the show. It’s not just going to be a one-off here and there like it’s been in the past. I will be commentating with Henry as a pair and we will be going through the whole event together. I think that it will be really fun because we haven’t cast together in the past. It’s been something we kicked around but we never got around to it. 

I’ve got another pair that is chilling in the back of my mind right now that I think will be really fun and I’ve been meaning to do for years, but we couldn’t make it happen this time. 

This will be your third BLAST event in a row for CS:GO. In the near future, is there any CS:GO event that you’ll be attending that won’t be BLAST related? 

There will be, but I can’t speak about the specifics right now because nothing is confirmed. Like I was saying earlier, I fully intend to do more CS:GO events toward the end of the year and the beginning of next year. 

I’ve been watching all these games like the StarLadder Major and I’m just dying. I was worried about it all like am I going to be able to cast again? Will I know what to say? I was watching matches at DreamHack Masters Malmö 2019 and I was casting games in my head, not even worried. In fact, I think I’m going to be very happy.